Rick Scott wants to run Florida like a business, but he seems ideologically driven to make sure the state isn't in the business of much. Fresh off a Pulitzer win for investigative reporting, Paige St. John of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune yesterday filed a shocker claiming Scott aims to kill Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run public home insurer, before his first term ends. The plan has sent shockwaves through the private insurance sector and Scott's own Republican party.
The bill creating Citizens was signed into law in 2002 by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and was written by lobbyists for the private insurance industry. The public corporation was meant to be a last-option insurer for homeowners who couldn't obtain insurance any other way, and with 1.3 million customers, it has become the state's largest home insurer.
Republican Gov. Charlie Crist passed several reforms during his term that expanded Citizens' reach. It should be noted that Bush was critical of many of those reforms and since leaving office has talked numerous times about trimming back the corporation. However, in 2006 Bush confirmed that his condo in Coral Gables was indeed covered by Citizens.
The Herald-Tribune reports that in meetings held this past February with top insurance industry lobbyists, Scott's aides made it clear the governor wants to kill the corporation before his first term in office ends.
Even the lobbyists were caught off guard.
The industry lobbyists protested that Florida carriers could not absorb all of Citizens' business, records show.
The gap would force many Florida property owners to turn to the unregulated surplus lines market, where rates are unchecked and policies are not backed by a state guarantee fund.
A lobbyist who attended the meeting advised others by email that Scott knew about the gap, but was not bothered.
"He doesn't seem to care whether they are insured in the voluntary market or surplus lines," the lobbyist wrote.
"He's clueless. The governor is clueless as to what is happening throughout the state, and the burden on homeowners and condominium owners and business owners," Republican Sen. Mike Fasano, one of Scott's toughest critics in the GOP, told the paper.
Scott himself has never publicly spoken of killing the company. Many rank-and-file Republicans simply want to trim Citizens' fat, reduce its market share, and return it to its original purpose of being the insurance carrier of last resort.
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The insurance industry also wants to reduce Citizens' coverage to a bare-bones level that wouldn't compete with companies' policies. But few in the industry want to see Citizens eliminated. Private insurers often seek insurance for coastal homes against hurricane damage through Citizens while they cover the same homes for other types of damage.
[Herald-Tribune: Documents show a Scott push to shutter Citizens]